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Black Women Lead In House Speaker Saga

Source: Getty Images and Twitter / Getty Images and Twitter

The Honorable Cheryl L. Johnson, clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives has been running a tight ship this week. Until a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is finally selected, Johnson is running the show.

Several outlets have reported on Johnson’s calm demeanor and poise during the multiple rounds of voting without an end in sight. Bloomberg described her as an “unlikely folk hero.” Some on social media have even suggested she should be the new speaker.

But there is another Black woman who caught some folks’ attention during the never-ending speaker saga. While some on social media referenced Deputy Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives Lisa Grant in regard to the House roll call process, it is in fact House Reading Clerk Tylease Alli who has been taking roll like a champ.

Former Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi appointed Alli in March 2021 to replace a retiring clerk.

“She is known and respected by Members and staff on both sides of the aisle for her great experience, dedication and integrity,” Pelosi said in a prior statement.

She has been in the role for almost two years, previously serving as chief clerk of the House Education and Labor Committee. Prior to that time, Alli served as a clerk with the House Committee on Education and Workforce.

Alli is a 2002 graduate of Michigan State University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and political science.

What may appear to be a generally mundane task has been thrust into the spotlight as a necessary part of democracy with Republican shenanigans dragging out the speaker process into a fourth day.

What is a reading clerk?

A reading clerk is one of five types of clerks with the Office of Legislative Operations. There are also bill clerks, journal clerks, tally clerks and enrolling clerks. (Read more here about each clerk’s function.)

Specifically, a reading clerk is tasked with “reading of all bills, resolutions, amendments, motions and Presidential Messages that come before the House.” Reading clerks are also required to submit formal reports to the Senate on all legislative actions taken by the House.

House of Representatives is still without a speaker

The House of Representatives will begin the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the capitol without a designated speaker. It is also the first time in a century since the vote for speaker went to a second ballot.

Members of the so-called “Freedom Caucus” refused to back Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The House cannot do anything until a speaker is elected.

And despite Rep. Hakeem Jefferies receiving the most votes in each round, he still hasn’t met the threshold to be the new speaker. Currently, the threshold sits at 218. 


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